A typical live show in New York is so different from everywhere else. No matter how gross, dripping with beer residue or smoky and dingy the venue is, guys roll up their $120 baby blue chino pants, and sweat perspires slightly from the quilts of multi-thousand dollar Chanel purses.
The story looked the same on a recent Saturday night, as Nashville rockers Natural Child took the stage to a sold-out crowd at Brooklyn’s popular Baby’s All Right venue. But what occurred was something wholly unexpected… a balls-out rock show from a band that’s evolved to country twang, playing in front of a group of kids that looked ready to go yachting.
If Dancin’ With Wolves — the band’s 2014 release — was your introduction to Natural Child, calling them a rock band could be somewhat staggering. It sounds like Guy Clark and Willie Nelson got stoned on the car ride to Nashville and decided to write about their love for the Las Vegas of the south. Its steels swoon and guitars twang in perfect harmony. It is a beautiful record, but Natural Child were a punk band, and this is not a punk record.
Yet, somehow, taking the country road and turning up the Loretta Lynn while their peers take the interstate blasting The Replacements has made Natural Child proverbially punker than everyone else. They are doing exactly what they want in the studio and on the stage: it’s fascinating and enviable, even if it doesn’t sound like punk anymore. It was dingy punk, then bluesy Rolling Stones-esque rock and finally middle-to-late-career Townes Van Zandt on his good days.
Natural Child’s previously crass lyrics underwent a major evolution in the studio. On one of their earlier songs, Crack Mountain, they sing, “I just want to smoke crack with my friends.”
On their new record they sing, “Don’t the time pass quickly when you’re makin’ love.”
Natural Child then and Natural Child now is the difference between the term “making love” and describing the action with vulgarity.
Their evolution comes at an interesting time. Nashville has the buzzed-about music scene, and the buzz is heavy guitars. Bands like Diarrhea Planet and JEFF the Brotherhood are selling out big-time venues across the country by basically smacking people in the face with their guitars.
It’s kind of a bold move, to zig when everyone in Nashville zags. But Natural Child has transcended that concept of a “scene.” They’re not really a Nashville buzz band. They’re just doing their own thing, and that makes them feel more authentic than anyone else.
“Their own thing” happens to be “complete unpredictability.” It’s evident in the against-the-grain direction they’ve taken on record, and it’s evident in a live show that sees the band jump around its catalogue’s stylistic changes.
But the crowds? They’re predictable. Or more like reliable. They’re rowdy, with sweat flying around like vampiric mosquitoes on a muggy night, clinging to your hair and clothes. Yet there’s a certain measure of irony to Natural Child’s fans jumping all over one another as the band breaks out some of their newer country-tinged songs. It’s clear that what brought the fans to the show in the first place was the prospect of some movement, a little dancing and a lot of jumping. It doesn’t matter which song from the band’s four-album catalogue is chosen, the fans are going to act in the exact same manner. Natural Child’s next record could be nothing but a fiddle and a lap steel and still folks will find a way to mosh to it.
Outside Baby’s All Right, people stood around after the show, still hanging onto the night. The longer you stayed after the last note was played, the more you thought that moment, the feeling from the show, could last forever. Only the best can get that kind of rise out of a crowd. Whether their sound is punk, or country, or both, Natural Child did it.